The number of NHL superstars dropping the gloves throughout the 2015 season is increasing, after top players seem to be losing the protection they once had. Don Cherry notably pointed out the issue in a recent segment of Coach’s Corner, discussing how injuries to some of the nation’s best players and prospects are taking over the game.
Cherry told NBC that superstars “should be protected all the time. That’s why they get injured all the time. They should never, ever be fighting.”
But, for hockey fans, not many of us would have a problem seeing two of the top goalies tough it out on the ice. The stars have a record of playing dirtier knowing their chances of fighting the ‘tough guy” are pretty slim. If they were held accountable for any cheap shots, it’d definitely help sell the game but could risk your favorite player.
Not only are the roles of fighters starting to slim down because of it, the desire for individual top dogs to police their own game will create a season controlled by the up and comers. Sure, McDavid didn’t drop the gloves this season but he’s a superstar with an injury that just dragged the Oilers into a pit far away from any playoff opportunity.
Yes, the risks of hurting some of the best guys in the league are at stake. But it’s a part of the game! It’s a brawl and all brawls are better with a little Ovechkin in the mix.
So, here are the top 15 fights by NHL superstars.
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15 Ryan Kessler
Averaging around 2-3 fights per season, Kessler got into one of his first fights wearing a Ducks jersey this December against The New York Rangers’ J.T. Miller. Without surprise, Kessler took the first swing before feeding a few uppercuts, landing Miller back-down on the ice. The star’s record of injuries, with both Vancouver and Anaheim, have yet to stop him from getting into a scrap.
14 Jamie Benn
Jamie Benn’s been known to drop the gloves against St Louis Blues David Backes, particularly over the past two years. They fought it out in 2014 and again last month, making it Benn’s first brawl of the season. He received several hits to the face before dishing it back, right as Backes’ helmet came off. Benn had four fights his last NHL season, which is his highest since his first year in the league.
13 Jonathan Toews
With only five career fights in the book, Jonathan Toews is known for throwing punches when his game is off. The Blackhawks star got into it with Joe Thornton after a bad hit from behind initiated the scrap. The two squared off, but it didn’t end well for Toews and a clear win for the San Jose captain was rightfully fared. Regardless, he definitely showed his teammates he's not going to back down from anyone.
12 Ryan Getzlaf
With numerous fights under his belt, Anaheim’s centre started a brawl with Jonathan Ericsson back in 2013. It’s no surprise that Getzlaf, who initiated the fight with a player who’s only averaged one to two fights per season, took him down within seconds. It was more of a wrestling match than anything but quite the way to go down for Ericsson after dropping the gloves.
11 Ilya Kovalchuk
Alright, well maybe he isn't currently an NHL star, but he's still a star in the KHL, so we'll count him. This Russian machine isn’t a goon by any means, but he sure knows how to fight hard. Kovalchuk has averaged about one fight every season, remaining consistent even after he left the NHL for the KHL in 2013. Coming in at one of his most brutal fights, Kovalchuk wrecked Bryan McCabe in 2009 at an Atlanta Thrashers vs Florida Panthers game. Within seconds, Kovalchuk threw him on the ground twice and initiated roars from the crowd on his way to the box.
10 Corey Perry
Perry’s had his fair share of goon fights with players like Steve Ott and Antoine Roussel, but often the Anaheim tough guy likes to push his way into scraps with inexperienced fighters. San Jose’s Tommy Wingels didn’t hit the ice in their fight last season, but Perry threw his jersey over his head before he roughed him up a bit more.
9 Joe Thornton
An experience fighter with 25 regular season fights since 1997, Joe Thornton gave Drew Doughty a beat down in front of his own bench during the 2011-2012 season. Doughty tried to hold his own, for his first and only NHL fight so far, but didn’t really stand much of a chance. Thornton has managed wins against stars like McCabe and Jamie Benn, even winning his last ever NHL fight against Toews in 2013. Unfortunately for Doughty, there was no way he’d be let off easy.
8 Phil Kessel
A massive pile up erupted in the Sabres vs Leafs game back in 2013, after John Scott took a swing at Phil Kessel. Each player on the ice got involved in the brawl, until the fight split itself up and players each took their turn at throwing punches. Kessel and Brian Flynn fought it out beside the pile up, while others circled around in a punching battle. The two took a moment to relax after Flynn started bleeding from his face, but only until a second fight massive fight broke out involving two star goalies...
7 Ryan Miller
That same Sabres vs Leafs game gave fans multiple fights to watch but the best had to be Ryan Miller and Jonathan Bernier. It was Miller’s first and only NHL fight to date and an absolute crowd pleaser. Shoulder pads and jerseys were hanging off each of them as one of the most insane goalie fights unfolded. Out of the numerous brawls happening on the ice that game, Miller and Bernier took the top spot.
6 Jarome Iginla
Iginla has been known to fight… And he fights often. Brayden Schenn took a beat down in 2014 but he wasn’t the only one that year. Iginla fought nine times in two seasons and has a grand total 56 regular season fights in 19 years. Iginla’s squared off with players such as Ryan Callahan, Antione Roussel and Steve Ott which may have shaped this veteran’s views on NHL fighting. Iginla told Sports Illustrated in 2013 that if fighting was taken out of the sport, it would make players less accountable for dirty plays. Injuries and cheap shots could increase without the ability to start a scrap, but for now fans can continue to watch the superstar tough it out.
5 Alexander Ovechkin
He’s only had three fights in the league, so Ovechkin is definitely not a fighter. His first fight was in 2006 during the preseason against the Philadelphia Flyers’ Mike Richards. Ovechkin didn’t have his way in the scrap but at least got up after being knocked on the ice, to continue throwing punches. He may be a big guy, but he has yet to win an NHL fight, proving that his hands are best served to light the lamp, not light up another player.
4 Nazem Kadri
For a star player on the Leafs and someone a lot smaller than his opponent, Kadri did pretty well when he dropped the gloves with David Backes this season. Kadri ended Toronto’s streak of 31 games without a major fight on the ice and also starred in his third NHL duel. With the Leafs lacking a major fighter on the team, it’s inevitable that those like Kadri will be targeted by guys like Backes.
3 Connor McDavid
The top NHL prospect of 2015, Connor McDavid, has had his fair share of injuries in both major fights and hard hits. McDavid, who was the captain of the Erie Otters in 2014, got into it with Bryson Cianfrone behind the net which resulted in an unfortunate end for the recent Oiler. McDavid no doubt won the brawl, but broke his hand in the process, forcing him out of action for 5-6 weeks. However, for his second fight on the ice, he did quite well.
2 Pavel Datsyuk
Since his NHL debut in 2002, Datsyuk has been nothing but a powerhouse on the ice. His fights, however, are a different story. With only two under his belt, Datsyuk didn’t shy away from Corey Perry in 2010, when the Anaheim tough guy went for one of the most inexperienced fighters in the league. Nevertheless, Perry hit the ice first after his height couldn’t help him against a player like Datsyuk.
1 Sidney Crosby
When you’re arguably the NHL’s biggest superstar, it’s not the best situation when Sidney Crosby is involved in a major fight. When Pittsburgh met the Flyers in 2012, numerous fights broke out all over the ice after Crosby knocked away Voracek’s glove as he was reaching for it. Crosby and Giroux went at it just before Letang dropped the gloves as well. Giroux got a sharp uppercut to the face eventually ending up on the ice as Crosby still fed some punches.
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